“When people think of poverty in America, they tend to think of inner city neighborhoods or isolated rural communities,’’ Kneebone said in a statement released by Brookings. “Poverty is touching more people and places than before, challenging outdated notions of where poverty is and who it affects.’’
The report is based on an analysis of figures from the 2000 Census and the American Community Survey, which aggregates statistics from 2008, 2009 and 2010. Federal guidelines define a family of four as poor if their household income is below $23,550.
The Brookings analysis found the highest suburban poverty jump in a Florida metro area, Cape Coral on the Gulf Coast, another area pummeled by the housing crisis. The poverty rate there jumped 8 percentage points to 18.6 percent.
The highest suburban poverty rates were reported in two Texas metro areas, El Paso at 36.4 percent, and McAllen at 35.4 percent.
Across the three-county South Florida region, the Brookings book says, the population of the poor rose during the 2000s from 565,451 to 833,189. The overall poverty rate did not change significantly because high population growth meant the number of poor simply kept pace with the broader increase in residents. But that left the poverty rates at a still-high 28.7 percent in the principal cities, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and at 16.6 percent across all suburban areas.
But the reason Miami-Dade and Broward did not see the same kind of overall surge in poverty that Brookings documented in other metro areas across the country is likely because poverty in the region was already high, said Alayne Unterberger, associate research director at Florida International University’s Research Institute for Labor Research and Studies.
“That’s because we started lower in terms of income,’’ Unterberger said. “Florida has always had high poverty. We have no manufacturing base. The job quality and the income is not there for a lot of Floridians to maintain a middle-class life.’’
In Miami-Dade, suburbs as disparate as Sunny Isles Beach, Cutler Bay and Doral saw double-digit percentage increases in poor population, figures released by Brookings show. Economically hard-hit Homestead saw a 76.4 increase in poverty even as it expanded dramatically after annexing surrounding areas for development. The poverty rate in the city of Miami remained unchanged, by contrast.
In Broward, Davie, Hallandale and Plantation saw their poor populations rise 41.2, 29 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively.
Those large jumps are probably explained by the fact that Broward had sharp income inequalities even before the recession disproportionately affected those at the bottom of the income ladder, Unterberger said.
The FIU institute has documented sharply rising income inequality across the region, which has been accentuated by the recession and the lagging recovery, she said.